Thousands join the call for safer Australian pesticides

Health, consumer and environmental organisations across Australia have joined thousands of signatories, including doctors, scientists and celebrity chefs, in a powerful new alliance demanding an overhaul of Australia’s outdated pesticides laws.

The Declaration for Safer Australian Pesticide Laws expresses serious concerns about the way pesticides are regulated in Australia and about the implications for human health and the environment.

Signatories include Ian Kiernan AO; Tim Flannery; environmental campaigner Erin Brockovich; celebrity chefs Julie Goodwin, Ben O’Donohue and Teresa Cutter; horticulturalist and television personality Peter Cundall AM; and Ronni Kahn, founder and CEO of OzHarvest and Australia's Local Hero 2010.

The Declaration was prepared by the people's watchdog CHOICE, the National Toxics Network, the Public Health Association of Australia and WWF-Australia. It urges the Australian Government to act on its commitment to reform national pesticides laws and deliver greater protection for people and wildlife.

“We believe Australian farm workers and wildlife deserve the same levels of protection as those overseas,” said WWF-Australia spokesperson Juliette King.

“To say a chemical is unsafe in Europe but safe in Australia is like saying smoking causes cancer in Europeans but not Australians.”

More than 80 pesticides registered in Australia are no longer authorised in Europe because of the risks they pose to human health or the environment. At least 17 pesticides are suspected carcinogens and 48 have been flagged as potential endocrine disruptors. Eight chemicals have been under review by the Australian regulator for more than 13 years, some up to 15 years.

“Given the scientific complexity and controversy surrounding many of these compounds, consumers rely on the regulator to do the right thing and put the health of their families and the environment first,” said CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications Christopher Zinn.

“It’s not asking too much for those in charge to employ the precautionary principal when it comes to certain pesticides but what we see all too often is a wait-and-see cop out, which avoids the key work of protecting Australians and their environment.”

Paraquat, a chemical implicated in the development of Parkinson’s disease, has been under review by the Australian regulator since 1997 and not even preliminary review findings have been released yet. The toxic pesticide diuron has been under review since 2002. Despite interim findings of unacceptable risks to seagrass and dugongs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, it remains available for sale.

Representatives from Sunfish Queensland, National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (EnTox), Biological Farmers of Australia, Doctors for the Environment, Environmental Justice Society, The Australia Institute, and the Centre for Policy Development have also joined the declaration, as well as thousands of concerned members of the public.

For media enquiries:

Charlie Stevens, WWF-Australia Media Office, 0424 649 689
Juliette King, WWF-Australia Conservation Policy Officer, 0438 864 997
Christopher Zinn, CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications 0425 296 442
Jo Immig, National Toxics Network Coordinator, 02 6687 1900, 0413 683 782

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